There are several categories when it comes to English courses.
Generally speaking, all the English courses for international students are grouped under the category of ELICOS courses (English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students). International students can only enrol in these courses.
The courses do not necessarily have to be associated with a visa and can vary from 12 hours (part-time), 20 hours (full-time) to 30 hours (extreme) per week. However, to qualify for a student visa, the English course must offer at least 20 hours of attendance per week, which can be in the mornings or evenings, according to the student’s work commitments.
General English: these are general English courses, and the most popular in Australia, as they represent a first point of contact with learning the language.
These courses generally start every Monday.
The student is asked to sit a placement test on orientation day, or the first day of the course, to ascertain their level. Following the test, the student will be assigned to a class, which could be:
- Elementary (A1)
- Pre-intermediate (A2)
- Intermediate (B1)
- Upper Intermediate (B2)
- Advanced (C1)
It takes around 10 weeks of study, on average, to move from one level to the next. Clearly, this varies based on several factors (learning ability, dedication, age, actual attendance, motivation, quality of the school). Having reached the Upper Intermediate level, the student should be able to obtain an IELTS score of 5.5 or more.
IELTS Preparation: as the name suggests, these are courses in preparation for the IELTS exam.
They differ from the General English course in that they concentrate exclusively on preparation for this test. They use the tables for assigning points and often use test simulations.
The IELTS test is the one most commonly used for academic and immigration purposes and there are two versions which can be sat: the General test and the Academic test.
It is valid for two years unless the organisation requesting it accepts it even after its expiry (the Immigration Department, for instance, generally accepts it for up to three years after it has been obtained). Warning: not all IELTS preparation courses start on Monday. Some schools offer the course every 21 weeks with ‘fixed’ starting dates.
Cambridge Preparation: again, the name gives it away, these are preparation courses for the Cambridge exam. A feature of this test is that its validity does not have an expiry, it costs more and it is definitely more demanding to prepare for, but it guarantees you a document that certifies your English proficiency forever.
Admission to a Cambridge preparation course requires a level of English of at least Upper Intermediate (FCE) or Advanced (CAE). Warning: the Cambridge preparation courses are generally organised for a particular period and they rarely commence every Monday.
OET: abbreviation for Occupational English Test, this is a test in technical English and is particularly intended for people who aim to work in the medical-health field. They are also popular with people who want to enrol in a Diploma of Nursing or in Medicine at University. There are preparation courses for this test, similar to the IELTS preparation, but really, they offer little by way of text books and exercises and people rarely want to enrol in them.
EAP: abbreviation for English for Academic Purposes. Technically, these are preparatory courses for admission to University in Australia or other English-speaking countries. In effect, this type of course often corresponds to no more than an IELTS preparation course. Sometimes, those who love the idea that there are American colleges like in the films, convince themselves that this is the perfect course for them.
Also known as Business English, this is an English course that focusses on the vocabulary and terminology of the corporate world. It is characterised by a strong practical orientation, commences only on determined dates, is low-medium cost, and requires an IELTS score of 5.5 for admission.